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Meet sqrrl: The Cambridge company commercializing the NSA's surveillance enabling software


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After the NSA gave its storage software - Accumulo - to the Apache Foundation, some of its software engineers left to form sqrrl and have attracted venture capital to commercialize this taxpayer-funded system. See my full article here:

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Meet sqrrl: The Cambridge company commercializing the NSA's surveillance enabling software

  1. 1. Accumulo: The NSA's Open Source Storage Solution Saul Tannenbaum, NeighborMedia @stannenb NSA's Utah Data Center, courtesy Swilsonmc
  2. 2. The NSA and Open Source have a history
  3. 3. Continued Collaboration Morning Keynote Speaker (confirmed): Dr. Patrick Dowd is the National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS)’s Chief Technical Officer and also serves as Chief Architect. He recently transitioned to this role after serving as Deputy Director of Mission Capabilities within the Technology Directorate of the National Security Agency. Dr. Dowd joined the Research Directorate of NSA in 1996, and is co-founder of the Laboratory for Telecommunications Science (R4). He moved from Research to the SIGINT Directorate in 2004, where he directed projects to unify Computer Network Operations (CNO) and developed technical strategies to integrate CNO, SIGINT, and Defense. He then became the Deputy Directorate for Modernization within the Information Technology Directorate in 2006 to execute his work and build out the world-wide operational environment of NSA at scale.
  4. 4. From Edward Snowden and The Guardian, we know some of what they deploy
  5. 5. NSA uses FOSS software for the same reasons we do nsa-boundless-informant-data-mining-slides
  6. 6. The NSA's Big Data Problem ● Storing all our telephone metadata and internet transactions is a serious technical challenge ● Searching it is even harder ● Google solved this with “Big Table” which it publicly described in 2006 – Inspired a number of other implementations of similar massively scaleable data stores ● None had the security features the NSA needed
  7. 7. The NSA's Big Data Solution (
  8. 8. The NSA's Big Data Solution ● NSA creates “Accumulo” in 2008 – Adds cell level security and real time, server-side computation to typical big data feature set ● NSA offers it to the Apache Foundation in 2011 as an incubator project ● Apache promotes it to top level project in 2012 ● NSAAccumulo technical staff leave government to form sqrrl ● sqrrl receives $2 million venture funding, moves to Cambridge, ships Sqrrl Enterprise, a commercial version of Accumulo
  9. 9. Sqrrl Use Cases (
  10. 10. Intelligence AnalysisIntelligence Analysis: Apache Accumulo was born at NSA within the U.S. Intelligence Community. While we can't say much about how NSA currently uses Accumulo due to classification reasons, Accumulo was designed to help the Intelligence Community take advantage of the massive amounts of structured, semi-structured, and unstructured information available to it, while adhering to the strictest of security and privacy requirements. Sqrrl Whiteboard Video Transcript: NSA Lessons Learned “Those are the four basic lessons learned over my decade of experience at NSA. We follow through here. We start small, but design for scale. Iterative schema refinement. Discovery analytics as big app building blocks, and datacentric security throughout.”
  11. 11. Accumulo: The NSA's Open Source Storage Solution Read more at: Saul Tannenbaum @stannenb